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Quebec’s Forests Through the Patriotic and Romantic Eyes of its Early Professional Foresters, 1900-1940

Thu, April 11, 10:30am to 12:00pm, Hyatt Regency Columbus, Champaign


The first ‘scientific’ forestry program in the Canadian province of Québec was introduced in 1905, following the establishment of the Department of Land and Forests (MTF) and the hiring of two young American-trained forestry engineers. Their mission was to adapt European scientific forestry principles and the principles of the new American conservationist movement to the realities of Quebec’s largely unregulated forest base. The adaptation work was both complex and multidimensional in nature. It treated as much the physical environment (including a vast geographic area, with a great deal of unknown and unidentified soil composition and flora), the administrative aspects of forestry (absence of administrative and scientific structures), and the cultural context (forest representations simultaneously as an unwanted enemy to repel and as an inexhaustible source of riches) of Quebec territory.
MTF annual reports, technical documents, and archival records help environmental historians reveal the vision and the efforts of Quebec’s earliest forest experts to establish the foundations of scientific forestry in that province, and equally their role in inculcating what they called a « forest mentality » in a society that had always had a close relationship with forest environments, but which had also long been dominated by a clerico-nationalist ideology which focused on agricultural uses of provincial lands. This paper examines how, in order to achieve their scientific goals, the province’s earliest professional foresters also sought to formulate discourses using patriotism and referring to romantic representations that would develop a popular ‘love of the forest’ amongst Quebec residents.